The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

Midshipman Cymberline Huddart CSC

Midshipman Cymberline Alonso Edric Huddart - Royal Naval Officer and Believed to be the First Australian to die in the Boer War.

Cymberline Alonso Edric Huddart was born in 1881 in Melbourne , the son of James Huddart, of Eastbourne. He was a member of the family which owned the Hauddart Parker line of ships on the Australian route. The family moved to Ballarat. From here in 1895, at the age of 14, Huddart entered service with the Royal Navy and entered the "Britannia". During training he was selected as one of the two Chief Captains of Cadets. Huddart did very well during his training and his seniority was such that on passing out in June 1897, he joined the HMS St. George on the South African Station as midshipman.

Huddart remained on the HMS St. George until the return to Britain at the conclusion of Admiral Rawson's (Governor of NSW 1902-1909) tour of the Cape. When in Britain, Huddart was transferred to the HMS Doris. HMS Doris (a 2nd class Cruiser) became the Flagship of Rear Admiral Sir Robert Harris commander of the station.

At the outbreak of the Boer War and the resulting siege at Kimberley, a naval brigade commanded by Captain Prothero was formed as part of the Kimberley Relief Force. Prothero was the captain of HMS Doris. Huddart was selected as Prothero's acting Aide de Camp. By the time of the battle of Graspan he had been given command of an element of the naval troops involved.

At Graspan, according to the despatch of Lieutenant General Lord Methuen, 26 November 1899, Huddart is stated to have:

"Behaved magnificently and still advanced after he had been twice wounded, until he was finally struck down mortally wounded."

The wounds he received that day at Graspan, 25 November 1899 proved to be fatal and he died the same night at the Enslin hospital. Naval Brigade casualties were heavy in this battle. The following day, Huddart was buried close to the hospital.

In the circumstances it is likely that he would have been recommended for the Victoria Cross, however the regulations surrounding the award of the Victoria Cross at that time meant that it could not be awarded posthumously. Midshipman Huddart's death caused the Royal Navy to push for a high ranking decoration at that point second only to the Victoria Cross which could be awarded posthumously. Using the Queen's interest in the case the Royal Navy was able to introduce the Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) although this would not be gazetted until after her death. This would be for warrant officers and junior officers for the Navy and Marines only. Later it would be retitled the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) after the Victoria Cross was opened to posthumous recommendations.

The events and circumstances surrounding his death was of such interest that even Queen Victoria ordered a copy of Huddart's picture with details of his service and his last hours. She is said to have kept the portrait on her dressing table. Queen Victoria wrote personally to his father, James Huddart to express her sympathy; in her letter, she referred to Huddart as one of the bravest and most distinguished officers in the Royal Navy. At the end of the war, Huddart was one of six Boer War recipients of the Conspicuous Service Cross, receiving that award posthumously on 2 July 1901. The Australian press announcing at the time:

"His Majesty the King has been pleased to announce that the newly-founded decoration of the Conspicuous Service Cross shall be conferred upon the late Midshipman Cymbeline Alonso Edric Huddart. The cross is given for zeal and bravery to Warrant and other minor officers of the Royal Navy and Midshipman Huddart's memory has been honoured in this special way." 

He is commemorated by a plaque in St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne.

Inscription on the Memorial To Midshipman Huddart in St Pauls Anglican Cathedral Melbourne:

To the glory of God and in loving memory of Cymbeline Alonso Edric Huddart RN of HMS Doris, South African Station. Youngest beloved son of Lois and James Huddart, born at Melbourne 6 January 1881, killed in action and buried at Graspan, Cape Colony on 25 Nov 1899. Conspicuous Service Cross CSC was posthumously conferred by the King.

"It is with deep regret that I have to report the death of Midshipman Huddart, who behaved magnificently and still advanced after he had been twice wounded until he was finally struck down mortally wounded. The Queen read with feelings of admiration and pride the record by his commanding officer of the noble conduct of the sailor, whose heroic but untimely death Her Majesty deeply regrets. The Doris sent one of the most gallant boys that ever lived, Midshipman Huddart, who charging up the hill at Graspan continued to advance after he had been twice wounded, and at last fell mortally hurt in the moment of victory." Extract from speech of First Lord of the Admiralty Royal Academy Banquet 5 May 1900.

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RUSI of NSW Boer War Battlefields